March 24, 2012

Ferris Wheel Park

Neighborhood Amusement Park
within the District of Lake View 
painting by Armando Pedroso
Pre Ferris Wheel Park
In 1890, the U.S. Congress decided that the celebration of the 400th anniversary of Columbus' discovery of America should be located in Chicago, and accordingly, on April 9, the State of Illinois licensed the corporation known as the World's Columbian Exposition to prepare for this grand event. The Corporation's directors, in October, 1890, appointed the rising architect, Daniel H. Burnham, Construction Chief and delegated to him autocratic powers. Burnham, architect of the first skyscrapers, was a good bet to score a smashing success, both for the Exposition and for himself. At this early stage, he was chiefly concerned at the lack of participation by America's civil engineers. Seeking to stir them into action, he arranged to speak before the 'Saturday Afternoon Club', an informal group of architects and engineers who were interested in the Fair. Their gatherings had served as a sort of public opinion poll on many of the architectural and engineering structures of the Exposition. It was immediately proposed to build a tower 500 feet higher than Eiffel's, but since this would be playing second fiddle to Eiffel's genius, this idea was dismissed. 
Mere "bigness" was not what was wanted. Something novel, original, daring and unique must be designed and built if American engineers were to retain their prestige and standing.
 postcard - Ebay
Harper's Weekly 1893
 a zoomed view of the cars
text below by boyl-timo, a seller at Ebay
‘The original Ferris Wheel, sometimes also referred to as the Chicago Wheel, was designed and constructed by Ferris Jr.. With a height of 264 ft it was the tallest attraction at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Illinois, where it opened to the public on June 21, 1893. It was intended to rival the (1,063 ft) Eiffel Tower, the center piece of the 1889 Paris Exposition. Ferris was a graduate of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and a Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, bridge-builder. He began his career in the railroad industry and then pursued an interest in bridge building. Ferris understood the growing need for structural steel and founded G.W.G. Ferris & Co. in Pittsburgh, a firm that tested and inspected metals for railroads and bridge builders. 
photo - Ebay
The view at the top - Man on Five
The wheel rotated on a 71-ton, 45.5-foot axle comprising what was at that time the world's largest hollow forging, manufactured in Pittsburgh by the Bethlehem Iron Company and weighing 89,320 pounds, together with two 16-foot-diameter cast-iron spiders weighing 53,031 pounds. There were 36 cars, each fitted with 40 revolving chairs and able to accommodate up to 60 people, giving a total capacity of 2,160. The wheel carried some 38,000 passengers daily and took 20 minutes to complete two revolutions, the first involving six stops to allow passengers to exit and enter and the second a nine-minute non-stop rotation, for which the ticket holder paid 50 cents. The Exposition ended in October 1893, and the wheel closed in April 1894 and was dismantled and stored until the following year. It was then rebuilt on Chicago's North Side,  Lincoln Park [Wrightwood & Clark], an exclusive [residential] neighborhood. This [in turn] prompted William D. Boyce, then a local resident, to file a Circuit Court action against the owners of the wheel to have it removed, but without success. It operated there from October 1895 until 1903, when it was again dismantled, then transported by rail to St. Louis for the 1904 World's Fair finally destroyed by controlled demolition using dynamite on May 11,1906
photo - Glen Miller, Forgotten Chicago-Facebook
"Seated in the audience was a tall, slight young engineer with a pale, resolute face. This was George Washington Gale Ferris, at that time the senior partner in a firm specializing in building steel bridges. Thirty-two years old, he had been educated at the California Military Academy and Rensseler Polytechnic Institute, where he received an engineering degree in 1881. For several years, he had worked on railroads and mining ventures and was one of the first to make a profession of testing materials and structures.
The popular story is that Ferris designed the wheel while at dinner with friends in a Chicago restaurant and that it was built without a change being made to this original sketch. There is some evidence, however, that he had designed the Wheel five or six years prior to the Exposition and it is possible that he chose a quiet moment after dinner to reveal these plans. Ferris decided that this was the proper time and the opportunity he had been looking for to build his Great Wheel and he set about this monumental task."
Construction photos in 1893
The assemble of the axle 

photo via Glen Miller-Original Chicago on Facebook
The wheel rotated on a 71-ton, 45.5-foot axle comprising what was at that time the world's largest hollow forging, manufactured in Pittsburgh by the Bethlehem Iron Company and weighing 89,320 pounds, together with two 16-foot-diameter (4.9 m) cast-iron spiders weighing 53,031 pounds.
photos - Chicago History Museum
notice the worker climbing a cable

photo - Ebay
The wheel stood 264 feet tall and took 20 minutes 
for the 36 luxury cars to make one revolution
According to the Chicago Tribune - 1893
And Then the Move to the
 District of Lake View and called
Ferris Wheel Park
images - Ebay
a view from Drummond Place once know as Sherman Place
and probably entrance to the park area
above ad 1896
below ad 1901 - Chicago Daily Tribune
Views from the Lakefront
double fold 1906 postcard - from my collection
zoomed view of below
A View from the North Pond Lagoon
this postcard is from my collection
Closer Views
image above - 'Challenging Chicago' by 
Perry Duis & donated Jackie Arreguin
A 1894 Sanborn Map highlights the 
pre-construction site
This 1894 Sanborn Map highlights the pre-construction site of the park - lot #2 apparently where Drummond Place is located today west of Clark Street to Wrightwood, Clark Street to what will be Lehmann Court - an alley then.
A view of the park in 1899
photo from 'storeyofchicago'
photo - Man on Five
 Streetcar on the move via Clark Street heading toward away from the car-barn (garage)
View one of the first movies filmed in America with the 
the 2006 Google Map view
Another 1894 map view of photos above
a 1894 Sanborn Map of the location of the film projector angled to 1816 Wrightwood building to the ferris wheel. The 1816 building was construction after this map was issued and before the park was established in 1896. If you draw a straight line from the projector to the wheel this works.
1901 photo via  Lance Grey-Chicagopedia-Facebook
The Public Transportation Route from Chicago
During this time period transportation 
along Clark Street ended at the amusement park 
at the 'Limits Car Barn' from a 1894 Sanborn Fire Map 

Streetcar garages called car barns This one was located along Clark Street that flank the park for easy access to the park for visitors arriving from the south. The owner of the park was also the owner of the car-barn and many public transportation routes in Chicago.
A View on Drummond Place 
west of Clark Street
 J.J. Sedelmaier via Forgotten Chicago-Facebook
Google Map east view a Drummond Place
Brian Wolf via Forgotten Chicago on Facebook
with a cool fade-out animation by Brad Cornelius  

A testimonial of the photo view
According to a Forgotten Chicago contributor on Facebook, David Zornig, believes “just north of Wrightwood, there are still some odd shaped lots behind the old post office and the small hotel that used to be a movie theater; hence the odd driveway to the right of the hotel entrance. I believe that driveway was the lobby entrance. There's a picture of it on Cinema Treasures, but I don't recall the theater name. To the South of the current McDonald's, was the Playdium bowling alley that was there until the `70's. My grandfather sanded the lanes there. One could see from the McDonald's lot North, that there was a large enough strip of lots behind Clark St. storefronts, to accommodate something that size.” 
The Initial Planned Location in 1894
According to the authors of 'Northsiders: Essays on the history and culture of the Chicago Cubs' (page 17) the residents of a subdivision of Pine Grove (northern Lake View East ) voted in 1894 against a new trolley line along Evanston Avenue (Broadway) hence ending the opportunity of the Ferris Wheel to be located north of Diversey Parkway (exact location unknown). The Chicago Tribune in 1894 indicated that the community of “Lake View would become a great amusement park area of the city”. 
Resident Opposition
Ferris Wheel Park was established in 1896 in the area south of Diversey on the corner area of Clark and (Sherman) Drummond in the new District of Lake View in Chicago.

Shortly after, and with vocal citizen opposition from a newly formed civic group called the Improvement and Protection Organization (IPO) the owners of the new park had to file for bankruptcy in 1900 due to lack of local community support and general citywide patronage. The lack of support of the park was due to its location within a residential subdivision and the residents of this new annex area were not fans of the owner of the park - Mr. Yerkes who owned the Chicago Electric Street Railway - owned and  operated streetcars on Evanston (Broadway) Avenue and Clark Street. Mr. Yerkes  manage to extend his Clark Street operation to the end of the line on Drummond Avenue exclusively for his amusement park.
A Typical Streetcar Used at the Time
postcard image - Ebay
Mr. Yerkes tried to circumvent property owners by trying through city governmental agencies to acquire property for his company without due process.  In other words, he was trying to create a Great America Amusement park experience in a middle of a urban residential neighborhood that was not appreciated by the locals.
Construction or re-construction photo - not sure
The 'Wheel' was sold to the City of St. Louis by 1904 for their own amusement park that also failed.  As a side note, the man who owned the rights to the park, Charles Tyson Yerkes - the owner of the North West Rail Company that controlled transportation in the city at the time apparently skipped town by 1911 leaving his rail company to flounder and his dream park a distant memory. By 1906, the world famous carriage wheel was sold for scrap.
The 1895 re-assembly of the Ferris Wheel at its new location along Clark Street & Wrightwood Avenue
- Chicago History in Pictures
The Controversial Amusement Venue
February 26th 1895
Opposition from Property Owners
 in February 28th 1895

Other Plans for Lake View in 1895

photo - Calumet 412
another view near Clark Street 
1899 photo - Man on Five

images - Art Institute of Chicago 
Troubles in the Park 1896 
photo - Paul Petraitis, Forgotten Chicago on Facebook
View from Pine Grove & Wrightwood Avenues 
of the dis-assembly or assembly
photo - Living History of Illinois and Chicago-Facebook
 photos via Ron Kolman Forgotten Chicago-Facebook
a faded view of it beyond the cannon below 
with no idea about the cannon in the park
a Chicago Daily Tribune 1899 advertisement below
a 1901 Program Booklet
 images -Chicago Public Library

In 1902 Another Possible Relocation
a 1903 postcard from the North Lagoon, Lincoln Park
image from Ebay
An Idea for it in 1900
image - Tommy Henry 
via Forgotten Chicago Discussion Group
But The Ferris Wheel Found a 
New & Final Home By 1906  

It's new home in the City of St. Louis 
The wheel was purchased by the Chicago House Wrecking Company at auction and brought to St. Louis for the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition where it was owned and operated by them as well.

It's Demise in 1906
It became of Ball of Steel 
photo via Shahrdad Khokamoradi via
Picture of Chicago-Facebook 
Andy Kowalczyk, contributor to Forgotten Chicago-Facebook mentioned that “It is regularly claimed that Dunns Bridge over the Kankakee River in Indiana was constructed from remnants of the ferris wheel” per his source Wikipedia. But according to Shahrdad Khodamoradi, a contributor to Forgotten Chicago-Facebook, “I think the bridge made of parts of the wheel is a myth. There are no reports of the wheel being carefully dismantled and re-purposed. 

No Post Notes

Important Note:
These posts are exclusively used for educational purposes. I do not wish to gain monetary profit from this blog nor should anyone else without permission for the original source - thanks!